I Shot Jesse James - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

I Shot Jesse James Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 30, 2007
Sam Fuller has a soft-ish side, who knew?
Also the bathtub scene, almost as homo-erotic as Spartacus (almost).
Super Reviewer
½ July 21, 2007
I Shot Jesse James deals more with the historically questionable exploits (i.e. the love story) of Robert Ford after killing Jesse James (who didn't come off that scary or legendary) than the lead up to the event itself. The brief relationship (in this movie at least) between James and Ford is one of the most homoerotic things I've seen in 40s cinema. The post-James murder seems like it could've been any drama but just happened to have Robert Ford as one of the main characters. Samuel Fuller's direction is the main draw with this one because if you've seen The Assassination of Jesse James any other telling of the story is pretty much ruined for you. I Shot Jesse James isn't a great movie but reasonably groundbreaking for a 40s western.
rubystevens
Super Reviewer
May 27, 2008
the title event takes place in the first twenty minutes and the rest of the film follows robert ford's haunted and hunted life after the fact. this was sam fuller's first film and it's one of his best imo
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2011
As the legendary Samuel Fuller's debut film, "I Shot Jesse James" is a western with Fuller's trademark close-up shots and psychological aspects as well as the use of newspaper pages displaying various events. The film is filled with complete characters, especially John Ireland as Bob Ford who practically steals the film! While It's no secretary who and how Jesse James was killed, the film focuses on the aftermath and ensuing destruction of Bob Ford. There are many different linked characters and subplots but this is about one man's destiny after he betrays his best friend and partner for his own ambitions. I loved the pacing of the film and Fuller's touch, while not on full display, are already seeping in and what eventually garnered the critical acclaim he later would receive. If you're a fan of Fuller, westerns, or even dramas this is a great work done by the gifted Samuel Fuller when he first set out directing and shouldn't be missed!
Super Reviewer
May 9, 2008
This film seems to has more in common with your pulp crime novel than your average western. Even the direction seems rather unique to the genre, and maybe has elements of film noir.
Either way it's quite a good watch, and a short one too. I haven't seen much Sam Fuller, but after this and Shock Corridor, I know I need to.
December 8, 2011
Saw this to compare it to The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. Definitely an inspiration for that movie, especially at the beginning. Probably the best scene is the musician singing the folk song to Ford. The romantic elements didn't work to me, and it's too bad the film decides to mostly focus on this aspect of Ford's story.
½ December 29, 2010
Dec 2010 (with Kia) - This is is Fuller's debut and it is amazing just as that. There is definitely an artificial feeling with the movie in the beginning. But it gets much better when we see ourselves deeper into the character of Bob Ford. We see how Jesse James' ghost follows him and how he cannot get away. I loved it at the end when in the duel like scene, we are reminded again that he shot Jesse James from behind. It was also fascinating to learn how much of the story has really happened.
½ March 19, 2009
A very interesting little movie. Perfectly forgettable in the scheme of things, but a worthwhile 80 minute diversion.
April 4, 2008
I think seeing Casey Affleck play Bob Ford sort of spoiled this one for me. I mean, John Ireland does a fine job, but the performance is simply nowhere near as nuanced or deep. That said, it's really quite a good film and a great debut for Fuller.
½ February 6, 2008
In Sam Fuller's first feature, [i]I Shot Jesse James, [/i]one cowardly act permeates the soiled fabric of one man's simple life. Based on the terrible myths circling about the grinning death skull of Jesse James and a story by Homer Croy, this version portrays Bob Ford as even more simpering and pathetic than just about every other screen treatment.

John Ireland plays Bob Ford with a perpetual look of worry and self-debasement plastered on his face. It's a strange interpretation as it paints Bob as a lowly miscreant who deserved his sorry fate. Casey Affleck in the far superior [i]The Asssassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [/i]gives Bob a sweet melancholy and a lasting touch of dignity. In that film Bob is a sympathetic figure and unlike this one, not entirely loathesome. It isn't giving anything away to say that Bob dies at the hands of his sweetheart's new (and much bolder) lover, John Kelley (Preston Foster). The film just portrays him as an emotional gimp with no real integrity and a lack of understanding why everyone treats him like a pariah.

Jesse James (Reed Hadley) is something of a one dimensional character. He lacks the steely gaze of other interpretations and fails to come off as a full fledged character. He's rather expendable in this film as he's only a prop to set up the fated maneuverings of Bob Ford as he stumbles through the latter years of his sorry life. Then there is the love interest, Cynthy Waters (Barbara Britton), a singer who Bob intends to marry if he can ever earn enough money to purchase her a ring. Britton is likable in this role but lacks the cool, disarming affectations that have made previous women in this tale so appealing. She's attractive and somewhat engaging but her role is essentially superfluous to the main story, the necessity for male bonding in cattleland after the denoument of the civil war. Bob has no one to turn to and his life slowly begins to unravel. He is unable to convince any man to stand by him as he grinds gradually into powder.

Preston Foster is a monument of a man and the most solid thing in this rather forgettable film. His presence is formidable as he literally stands in the way between Bob and the woman he loves and who he imagines loves him. Foster gives Kelley a dominating intensity that doesn't waver as Bob prances about trying anything whatsoever to prove he's a man of honour who deserves the hand of Cynthy. However, Bob lacks what Kelley has in spades: a clean conscience and an unyielding entitlement to precisely what he wants out of life. Indeed, Bob retains a fiercesome guilt throughout the latter half of the film. He would do anything to undue those terrible events which lead to him putting a bullet in the back of Jesse's head. As in other versions Bob takes his show on the road and nightly reenacts the sad events that led to Jesse's death. He becomes famous in his own right but the attention is hollow. He is unable to get the actual, physical event out of his mind no matter how many times he tries to exorcise it.

Overall, this is a credible first film but does not possess enough energy to make it more than passably watchable. The performances are all a bit wooden and it's impossible to have much sympathy for any of the characters. Preston Foster comes off best due entirely to the solidity of his physical presence. The camera work by Ernest Miller is fairly good but doesn't do anything particularly memorable. Ultimately, it's a building block and something worth expanding on.
Super Reviewer
September 27, 2007
Wonderfully entertaining old B-western about Robert Ford, an outlaw who shot his best friend Jesse James in the back in exchange for amnesty, and how the murder haunted him for the rest of his life. Hokey at times but solidly crafted, and remarkably engaging. A good mix of psychological drama and western gunslinging - raising it above your typical throwaway B-movie.
August 23, 2007
It's bizarre watching this movie. The budget and style is that of the B-Movie westerns, but Fuller is defenitely seen in the dark edge to this movie. Act one is a little weak, but the rest of the movie is absolutely fantastic. I can't agree that Ford is described as sympathetic, so that confuses me. Outside of that, this movie is fantastic.
September 20, 2015
Better than usual forties western, where the main character is an anti-hero.
December 8, 2011
Saw this to compare it to The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford. Definitely an inspiration for that movie, especially at the beginning. Probably the best scene is the musician singing the folk song to Ford. The romantic elements didn't work to me, and it's too bad the film decides to mostly focus on this aspect of Ford's story.
May 3, 2013
Samuel Fuller's debut isn't as strong as his other films, but there are some moments of nuance and brilliance and nuance among the basic tropes of the times. The bar scene in which Ford asks the musician to play the song that tears into him, the infamous bathtub scene, and the reenactment of the famous shooting on stage are all amazing scenes. However, the movie seems to lose steam throughout and the second half is just a basic western love triangle. The acting is solid and the story is okay, but ultimately the smaller parts of the movie work better than a whole package.
July 13, 2012
dark western? i love it
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2011
As the legendary Samuel Fuller's debut film, "I Shot Jesse James" is a western with Fuller's trademark close-up shots and psychological aspects as well as the use of newspaper pages displaying various events. The film is filled with complete characters, especially John Ireland as Bob Ford who practically steals the film! While It's no secretary who and how Jesse James was killed, the film focuses on the aftermath and ensuing destruction of Bob Ford. There are many different linked characters and subplots but this is about one man's destiny after he betrays his best friend and partner for his own ambitions. I loved the pacing of the film and Fuller's touch, while not on full display, are already seeping in and what eventually garnered the critical acclaim he later would receive. If you're a fan of Fuller, westerns, or even dramas this is a great work done by the gifted Samuel Fuller when he first set out directing and shouldn't be missed!
May 14, 2009
A film ahead of its time, one that challenges Hollywood westerns both thematically and visually in a way that would become big with revisionist films nearly twenty years later. Sam Fuller was interesting visionary because he both admired and resisted commercial moviemaking. His films seem distant from the system yet they utilize so much of it. Though it isn't as powerful a telling of the Bob Ford story as Andrew Dominik's 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)', Fuller's version is nearly as violent in isolating Ford as a greedy opportunist while secretly (and painfully) revealing to its audience the sad truth behind the story- that behind the mythos and the towering legend, Ford was a human being, and one irreversible action, even if it was cold-blooded murder, ruined his life and probably haunted him through his final breath. Ford is played here powerfully by John Ireland; he gives the character a cold and careless immediacy yet has a softness behind the eyes. He is a boy, really, and the performance, like Casey Affleck's in Dominik's film, helps to show that we don't really grow up, we just learn to pretend.
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